A painting used as the cover art for one of legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye’s albums has fetched nearly $15.3 million at auction.
Ernie Barnes’ joyous depiction of a hectic scene in a dance hall titled “The Sugar Shack” which, after a 10-minute bid by more than 22 bidders, was sold to Bill Perkins, a hedge fund manager and entrepreneur, auction house Christie’s confirmed.
According to Christie’s, the final retail price for “The Sugar Shack” was 27 times the most expensive Barnes work previously sold. It also blew up its estimated retail price of $150,000 to $200,000.
The painting depicts a group of black dancers enjoying a night out at the Durham Armory. The Armory was a famous dance hall in segregated North Carolina in 1952.
Barnes, who died in 2009, was born in North Carolina in 1938 and often drew on his own experiences growing up in the American South during the Jim Crow era for his depictions of social moments and images of black people’s daily life.
In a 2002 interview in which the Oakland Tribune described Barnes as “the Picasso of the black art world,” the artist said he got the idea for The Sugar Shack while reflecting on his childhood and “not in was able to go to a dance I wanted to go to when I was 11.”
“The Sugar Shack” has become a widely recognized image – thanks in part to its appearance on Gaye’s 1976 album “I Want You” and its use in four seasons of the sitcom “Good Times,” which centers on the life of a poor family in the Chicago housing projects.
Barnes was a professional American football player before becoming a painter, and many of his artworks depicted sports scenes such as basketball and soccer games. Barnes told the Oakland Tribune in 2002, “I paint when ideas come and I see a vision of what I want from our common humanity.”
Barne’s work has appeared on other album covers over the years, including a 1984 cover for The Crusaders and BB King’s 2000 album Making Love is Good for You.